Independent study, classroom learning, and one-on-one practicing are all part and parcel of effective language learning. When you specifically emphasize developing your listening skill, try implementing the below-listed tips and tricks in all three settings so that improving listening skills is more effective as well as quicker than usual.
1. Microlearning: Study in Small Portions
It is proven that learning 15-20 minutes at a stretch is always more effective than studying for hours when you are learning a new language. The trick is to segment the day’s learning material into small portions that can be done within 5 minutes or so. If 10 words a day is your vocabulary learning goal, you may portion them up into 3 words at one go and have these 5 minutes of work thrice a day.
This is an easy example. Try dividing your listening tasks into manageable pieces and listen to them once and run them over and over in your mind so that you are ready to take the next portion in.
Listening to all 10 words at a time will increase the chance of confusion and will force your brain to focus on 10 different things at a time. It is easier for your brain to concentrate on 3 words at a time and that helps memorize them in a context far more easily.
2. Listen to the Same Thing Over
Listening is an instinctive skill that happens automatically when you already know the words and how they make sentences. A good practice is to listen to the same videos you like over and again. If you love what you are watching or listening to, it will not feel repetitive or boring.
Take your favorite TV series and keep watching the same episodes multiple times with and without subtitles so that you understand the context and all the sentences used best.
Always listen for the vocabulary you already know and try picking up new ones. Build a habit of looking new words up in your dictionary or on the internet at your convenience. As you get used to the things they are saying on the screen and have almost memorized the dialogues of the same episodes of your favorite TV series, try saying them out loud for fun and practice.
3. Passive Listening: Take Advantage of "White Noise"
Passive listening works like magic while getting used to a new language. Having some song or audio on while focusing on some other tasks at hand will make the background noise "white noise," a noise that masks all other distracting ones and lets you focus.
It is the most effective form of passive listening. Your brain is focusing on something but listening to what's been said in the background audio without even realizing it.
You may be frustrated thinking that it’s just a waste of time and energy as most of us cannot actively do multiple things at a time, but your brain is listening passively no matter what else you are doing. It works wonders to get your ears and your brain accustomed to a new language without even making a strenuous effort.
4. Read Out Loud
Reading out loud is always a great way to check your pronunciation, intonation and stress while dealing with a new language. Read aloud so that you can hear yourself clearly. Correct and tweak what sounds off. As it acts as a natural self-assessment tool, it will work better than reading quietly.
Intrapersonal conversations are a great tool in language learning to develop both listening and speaking skills simultaneously in the target language.
Read aloud the words you pick up over and again until you hear yourself getting the pronunciation absolutely spot on. It can be fun and engaging when you are not putting a lot of pressure on yourself while practicing. Learning a new language is always an exciting gig and remember to have fun while learning because that is when it is always the most effective.
5. Get Used to Different Accents
Accents are tricky. With regional accents, the same language can seem so different that it is often unrecognizable to new language learners. But you can make a point of listening to a new accent so that you can get your ears used to that variety of the language as well.
Suppose, you are great at listening to American English since you do not require subtitles while watching American series but Australian English sounds alien to you.
You can pick a few good Australian series to start watching with subtitles at first and then slowly move on to watching without subtitles. It will automatically increase your listening aptitude as you keep hearing the same words pronounced in a totally different accent. You are bound to find the variation fascinating in most cases if you are a language buff.
6. Listen as You Sleep
Being introduced to new information before getting some sleep has been proven to work when it comes to memorizing better. But there are studies to prove the same is possible if you are listening while you are sound asleep that is even in the non-REM stage (the first few hours of deep dreamless sleep).
A research was conducted by researchers of two Swiss universities and two groups of native German speakers participated in it. They were given a handful of Dutch to German word pairs to memorize at 10 pm. They were instructed to read them before one group could sleep while the other stayed awake but both would continuously listen to an audio playing the word pairs over along with a few additional ones thrown in. At 2 am when both groups were awake and sat for a test, the sleeping group did remarkably better.
The researchers noticed similar waves present in the brains of those in deep dreamless sleep which is normally seen in the brains of people studying hard.
7. Join A Conversation Group
Joining a group to practice your new language skills always helps. It works even better when your group consists of native and non-native speakers of the target language as well as people having different accents going on. Conversations help improve listening monumentally because when you speak and listen in return back and forth, you instantaneously realize the variations in pronunciations and what you are already doing great and what needs some work. You correct the wrongs in the very next sentence you speak and nothing works better than that.
It can be nerve-wracking trying to speak a language you are only learning that too in front of people who speak it since birth. The trick is to keep listening and practicing until you are confident enough to speak it.
When you listen and have an option to respond then and there, you are going to feel the urge to do it as soon as you are ready. You do not have to understand every word in every accent but you have to pay attention and try to decode them. Once listening becomes a habit, you will soon be ready to speak the language as well.
8. Prepare Your Conversations Before They Happen
Conversations are mostly about practicing to speak but what we often overlook is that it is 50% listening as well. So it's not completely mindless to think of using them to improve listening skills as well. When you wish to focus on some conversations strictly for listening purposes, preparing and practicing your part as a speaker beforehand will give you time and space to listen.
Technically, when you are speaking, you have to pay attention to your own speech which gives you less time to concentrate on the speech of the person in front. Especially when you are speaking in a foreign language your brain is already hyper-alert; scrutinizing your every move in detail. Laying all that scrutiny on yourself at home practicing will boost your confidence as a speaker while conversing. The added benefit will be that you can let go while you talk and that will enable you to concentrate on the listening part of the deal.
When you have actively invested yourself in trying to improve your listening skills in any language, the aforementioned tricks are meant to do wonders. Being backed up by necessary research, these are bound to help you improve and polish your listening skills in the target language.